When Beauty Is the Beast

Adult females sexually exploiting adolescent boys are malefactors — not benefactors.

"There is an alarmingly high rate of sexual abuse by females in the backgrounds of rapists, sex offenders, and sexually aggressive men," writes Frederick Mathews, Ph.D., in "The Invisible Boy: Revisioning the Victimization of Male Children and Teens." Yet the public’s perception of adult females who manipulate minor boys into sexual relationships continues to be skewed by late-night comedians and news coverage that treats it as a boy’s harmless rite of passage rather than a serious crime.

It’s most disturbing when a judge doesn’t get it.

On May 22, 2002, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Bruce Gaeta shocked observers during the sentencing hearing of Pamela Diehl-Moore, a 43-year-old teacher who pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault after admitting that she had had sex with a 13-year-old boy many times over a six-month period. Gaeta, who gave Diehl-Moore probation rather than three years in prison, opined:

So I really don’t see the harm that was done here. … I don’t see anything here that shows that this young man has been psychologically damaged by her actions. And don’t forget, this was mutual consent. Now certainly under the law, he is too young to legally consent, but that’s what the law says. Some of the legislators should remember when they were that age. Maybe these ages have to be changed a little bit.

The New Jersey Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Gaeta on May 7, 2003, for comments that evidenced an unethical bias in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct:

Concerning the sexual nature of young boys, the views implicit in Respondent’s comment are fundamentally inconsistent with the meaning and policy of the law that criminalizes the sexual activities between an adult and a minor, boy or girl. That law is strongly based on the understanding that minors, boys as well as girls, are especially, and presumptively, vulnerable and subject to harm from sexual acts with adults and that they do not have the understanding or maturity to consent to sex, regardless of the strength of their sexual feelings.

The public, however, will continue to misperceive the gravity of such offenses when the TV voice-over is virtually muted by a color photo of an attractive, bikini-clad perpetrator astride a Harley or scenes of another barely dressed perpetrator bumping and grinding in a video sent to her young victim.

Pamela Rogers, 28, is an attractive former teacher from Warren County, Tenn., who served six months in jail for having sex with a 13-year-old boy, a student at the elementary school where she had taught. Police re-arrested Rogers on April 27, just two weeks after an arrest for violating probation. She contacted the boy again and sent him sexually explicit videos of herself. The prosecutor says he will seek to revoke Rogers’ probation and send her to prison for seven years. Rogers reportedly contacted the victim and his family through her MySpace website.

In a similar case, Debra Lafave, young, blond, and in the words of her lawyer, "too pretty for prison," escaped punishment on March 24 when a Florida prosecutor dropped child- sex-abuse charges against her. Lafave, a former teacher, admitted having sex with a boy who was then 14 years old. The charges were dismissed allegedly because the victim’s mother did not want to put her son through a trial. Lafave had already been sentenced by another Florida court to three years’ house arrest followed by seven years’ probation after she admitted having sex with the boy in a school classroom, her home, and the back of a car with the boy’s cousin as driver. Lafave blamed her conduct on "bi-polar disorder." News coverage continued to feature a photo of a bikini-clad Lafave sitting on a Harley motorcycle.

A day after charges were dropped against Lafave, a West Virginia judge sentenced a "not too pretty for prison" Toni Lyn Woods, 37, a former elementary-school teacher, to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting four children under age 16. Woods described herself as a "monster." Her only likeness to Lafave and Rogers, other than being a female, is her vocation.

The number of female teachers accused and/or convicted of sexually assaulting minor boys is far greater than most would imagine. Several Web sites list names and photos of more than 60 female perpetrators. Some of the most recent cases follow:

  • Nicole Andrea Barnhart, 35, a married mother of two from Highlands Ranch, Colo., made her first court appearance on March 24 on charges of sexual assault on a child by someone in a position of trust and sexual assault as a pattern of abuse. Barnhart, a teacher at Ponderosa High School, is accused of having sex with a 16-year-old male student.
  • Christine Duda, 39, a teacher at Normandy High School in St. Louis County, Mo., was jailed on February 6 on charges of statutory rape for having sex with a 16-year-old male student in her home.
  • Angela Comer, 26, a former teacher at a middle school in Monroe County, Ky., was indicted on January 18 on charges of illegal sex acts with a 14-year-old boy who had been her student. Comer, the boy and her 4-year-old son were found in Mexico.
  • Sherry Brians, 41, a seventh-grade teacher at Buttonwillow School in Kern County, California, voluntarily surrendered to the sheriff’s department on January 4 on charges involving lewd acts on a 12-year-old boy. The boy’s mother allegedly found a letter from Brians indicating that she had been having sex with him at school.
  • Traci Tapp, 28, a former gym teacher at a New Jersey high school who had been charged with numerous sexual-assault charges involving three male students, pleaded guilty in January to "offensive touching." Tapp escaped jail time and probation, and is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
  • Elizabeth Stow, 26, of Visalia, California, a former Tulare Western High School teacher, pleaded no contest to a dozen counts of felony charges stemming from having sex with three underage students. Stow received a suspended nine-year prison sentence on Nov. 18, 2005. She now faces a year in custody, which could be served either under house arrest or in prison, five years probation and registration as a sex offender.
  • Sandra "Beth" Geisel, 42, a former teacher at Christian Brothers Academy in Albany, N.Y., was indicted in September 2005 for three counts of third-degree rape and one count of performing a criminal sexual act on a 16-year-old boy who was a student at the academy. She pleaded guilty Sept. 26, 2005, to a single count of rape and agreed to spend six months in jail. A judge ordered her to register as a level-one, low-risk, sex offender.
  • Amber S. Jennings, 32, a former teacher at Shepherd Hill Regional High School in Dudley, Mass., pleaded guilty Sept. 26, 2005. She will undergo two years of supervised probation for sending obscene photos, videos and electronic messages to a 16-year-old male student with whom she was having a sexual relationship.
  • Elisa Kawasaki, 25, a former high-school teacher in Hanford, Calif., who admitted a sexual relationship with her 16-year-old male student, agreed to spend 180 days in jail after accepting a plea deal Sept. 23, 2005. The deal includes serving five years’ probation and forfeiture of her teaching credentials.
  • Michelle Kush, 29, a substitute teacher at Boone County (Ky.) High School, was accused of two counts of rape and one count of sodomy Sept. 9, 2005, for having sex with a 15-year-old boy several times in the previous three months during summer break.
  • Amber Marshall, 23, a teacher’s aide in Northwest Indiana, allegedly confessed on June 11, 2005, to having sexual contact, including intercourse, with several special education students at Hebron High School. Investigators claim that Marshall admitted what she did was wrong and knew it was against the law. She faces six felony counts.
  • Melissa Michelle Deel, 32, of Bristol, Tenn., agreed on May 6, 2005, to serve 14 months in federal prison followed by five years supervised release for engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a 13-year-old male student. Deel admitted to traveling from Tennessee to Virginia in 2004 to commit a sex act on the student.
  • Diane DeMartini-Scully, 45, a psychologist at East Hampton (New York) Middle School is charged with third-degree rape for two alleged sexual encounters she had with her former 16-year-old neighbor in Mattituck, Long Island, in May 2005. Police arrested Scully in Onslow County, N.C., on charges that she paid a secret visit to the boy’s new home and kidnapped him and his younger sister, giving them alcohol and marijuana.
  • Carol Flannigan, 50, a music teacher at a Boynton Beach, Fla., public school, had sex with an 11-year-old former student and a sexual relationship with the boy’s father at the same time, according to a deposition filed the week of March 5, 2005, in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. Flannigan is facing charges of one count of capital sex assault on a child under 12 and one count of lewd or lascivious assault.
  • Margaret DeBarraicua, a 30-year old teaching intern in Sacramento, Calif., was arrested Feb. 24, 2005, on statutory rape charges. Police say they found her parked behind Hollywood Park’s DaVinci School having sex with a 16-year-old special-ed student. Her own 2-year-old son was in the back seat.
  • Celeste Emerick, a high-school teacher in Huber Heights, Ohio, faced charges Feb. 11, 2005, of sexual battery and showing her students pornographic material at her apartment.

"The teacher/lover tends to be defensive and denies the reality of her actions. She also minimizes the negative impact of her actions on the victim. She may be acting out her anger," according to a report by the Correctional Service of Canada.

Psychiatrist Janet Warren and psychologist Julia Hislop researched female sexual offenders for their book, "Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation." They write, "Not only does this have long term effects on the children, but it also serves as a contagion that follows victims into the next generation with repetitious and cyclical traumatization of others."

In "The Invisible Boy: Revisioning the Victimization of Male Children and Teens," Frederick Mathews, Ph.D., specifically addresses the percentage of boys victimized by females. According to Mathews, while small in comparison to male abusers, it’s probably higher than most imagine:

The percentage of women and teenage girl perpetrators recorded in case report studies is small and ranges from 3%-10% (Kendall-Tackett and Simon, 1987; McCarty, 1986; Schultz and Jones, 1983; Wasserman and Kappel, 1985). When the victim is male, female perpetrators account for 1%-24% of abusers. When the victim is female, female perpetrators account for 6%-17% of abusers (American Humane Association, 1981; Finkelhor and Russell, 1984; and Finkelhor et al., 1990). In the Ontario Incidence Study, 10% of sexual abuse investigations involved female perpetrators (Trocme, 1995). However, in six studies reviewed by Russell and Finkelhor, female perpetrators accounted for 25% or more of abusers. Ramsay-Klawsnik (1990) found that adult females were abusers of males 37% of the time, female adolescents 19% of the time. Both of these rates are higher than the same study reported for adult and teen male abusers.

Mathews also cites self-report studies of men that indicate an even higher incidence of sexual abuse by women:

In a retrospective study of male victims, 60% reported being abused by females (Johnson and Shrier, 1987). The same rate was found in a sample of college students (Fritz et al., 1981). In other studies of male university and college students, rates of female perpetration were found at levels as high as 72%-82% (Fromuth and Burkhart, 1987, 1989; Seidner and Calhoun, 1984). Bell et al., (1991) found that 27% of males were abused by females. In some of these types of studies, females represent as much as 50% of sexual abusers (Risin and Koss, 1987). Knopp and Lackey (1987) found that 51% of victims of female sexual abusers were male. It is evident that case report and self-report studies yield very different types of data about prevalence. These extraordinary differences tell us we need to start questioning all of our assumptions about perpetrators and victims of child maltreatment. Id.

Far from enjoying a mere right of passage, adolescent boys abused by women become rapists and sex offenders with mostly female victims:

Finally, there is an alarmingly high rate of sexual abuse by females in the backgrounds of rapists, sex offenders, and sexually aggressive men, 59% (Petrovich and Templer, 1984), 66% (Groth, 1979), and 80 percent (Briere and Smiljanich, 1993). A strong case for the need to identify female perpetrators can be found in Table 4, which presents the findings from a study of adolescent sex offenders by O’Brien (1989). Male adolescent sex offenders abused by “females only” chose female victims almost exclusively. (Id.)

Hislop, an international expert on child sex abuse and female sex offenders, also found serious short and long-term harm for boys victimized by women:

A number of researchers have found that children who have been abused by females have often experienced significant difficulties. Shrier and Johnson (1988) noted in their sample of 11 adolescent boys reporting a history of molestation by females, that 73% reported the immediate effects of such molestation to have been "strong" or "devastating."

In addition to emotional and behavioral problems among males sexually molested in childhood, some authors have noted social and relationship problems. Conflict among men sexually abused by females related to sexuality, and to intimate relationships or marriages has been noted by a number of authors (Etherington, 1997; Kasl, 1990; Lawson, 1991; Rinsley, 1978). A variety of sexual problems [have] been noted by several authors to occur among males who have been molested by females (Maltz and Holman, 1987; Rosencrans, 1997; Sarrel and Masters, 1982; Shrier and Johnson, 1987). Additionally, several authors have found sexual identity concerns, homosexuality, or bisexuality among small groups of males who were molested by females (Johnson & Shrier, 1987; Krug, 1989; Rosencrans, 1997). Parenting was found to be problematic by all of nine men molested in childhood by their mothers and studied by Rosencrans (1997).

The possibility that males who are sexually abused by women may later sexually abuse others has been raised by several authors (Justice & Justice, 1979; Maltz & Holman, 1987; Margolis, 1984; Rosencrans, 1997). Groth (1979a) noted that rapists are sexually victimized more by females than by males and suggested that this partially explains their sexual attacks against women. High frequencies of molestation by a female have been noted in the histories of incarcerated sex offenders by several researchers (Allen, 1991; Burgess, Hazelwood, Rokous, Hartman & Burgess, 1987; Groth 1979a; Petrovich and Templer, 1984; Ryan, Miyoshi, Metzner & Fryer, 1996).

According to Robert Shoop, a law professor at Kansas State University and author of "Sexual Exploitation in Schools," the justice system treats female abusers far more leniently than their male counterparts:

"The idea that society has historically said that women are to be protected from sex, but boys are supposed to enjoy it and look for the opportunity, I think is wrongheaded and is a vestige of our past inequalities." His research shows that male teachers convicted of abusing female children receive far harsher punishment – an average of 11 years of jail – than female teachers who are more likely to get probation.

As did Rogers, Jennings and Emerick, female abusers show pornography to children as part of the seduction process, according to Mathews. In an e-mail sent to this author, Dr. Judith Reisman agrees, based on "extensive, hard, reliable observational data":

Based on my 40 years studying how Little Porno has grown into Big Porno, I estimate that 99% of modern female sex offenders are pornography users. I won’t say 100% because there is always that rare exception to the rule. Since the advent of Herpes and AIDS, Playboy and its satellites began to forcefully include wives and pornographic married sex in their stories, letters, cartoons and photographs. Marketing themselves after the "Madonna"-era singers, "Girls Gone Wild," "Desperate Housewives," "Victoria’s Secret," Internet "chat rooms" and grocery- store Maxium, Stuff and FHM pornography, I am no longer surprised by daily e-mails that report female teachers–including moms — as child molesters. Erototoxins are just that, toxic to us all.

Dr. Patrick J. Carnes, an internationally recognized expert on sexual addictions, which include "indulging in pornography," has found "that approximately 20 percent of all patients seeking help for sexual dependency are women. (This same male-female ratio is found among those recovering from alcohol addiction.) As once was the case with alcohol addiction, many people cannot accept the reality that women can become sexual addicts. One of the greatest problems facing female sexual addicts is convincing others that they have a legitimate problem.”

"One out of every six women, including Christians, struggles with an addiction to pornography. That’s 17 percent of the population, which, according to a survey by research organization Zogby International, is the number of women who truly believe they can find sexual fulfillment on the Internet. (Ramona Richards, "Dirty Little Secret," Today’s Christian Woman, September/October 2003.)

Richards is right: "The first step toward healing for an addict is to realize she’s not alone. She needs to know there are people out there who understand and can reach out to her in love. … They do need to be held accountable for their sins, but they also need help, support, and unconditional love."

A list of Christian counseling and other resources is available here.

The more that the pervasive presence of pornography and the sexualization of children by media and advertising desensitizes women, boys will remain at greater risk of abuse by exploitive females. They will take advantage of a public and criminal justice system that views the conduct as some liberalized version of “teacher’s pet.”

For more information on the exploitation of children in and by pornography, see Jan LaRue’s paper: The Road to Perversion Is Paved With Pornography.